PHOTOFAIRS has commissioned Para Site (Hong Kong), Asia’s leading contemporary art centre, to curate Insights for 2019. Insights is an initiative launched by PHOTOFAIRS in 2016 which focuses on a particular theme or important moment in the development of photography.
Para Site’s Deputy Director Claire Shea will draw from a wide network of established and emerging artists from East and South East Asia to explore photography's role in shaping our history and perceptions. Claire has shared her reasons for selecting this specific theme, alongside the artists she strongly believes follow the topic of ‘Fieldwork’...
Claire Shea: I have long been interested in the power of landscape, and its use as a tool in the creation of national and social identities. Through ‘Fieldwork’ I wanted to look at artists from across the region who are working with landscapes, employing their power today, reframing the past and considering its role in shaping the future.
I chose the title ‘Fieldwork’ because this term refers both to the gathering of information about something in a real, natural environment – an approach these artists are often taking to conduct research and to document the landscapes explored in these images. On the other hand, many of these artists’ employ landscape itself as a means of uncovering histories overlooked or previously not included in grand historical accounts of the past. For example, in the works of Sim Chi Yin, Siu Wai Hang and Tan Lijie, the artists each take their family histories as a starting point to chart personal journeys in relationship to place, considering how these stories and memories are intertwined with sites related to broader socio-political histories.
In contrast, the works of Ho Rui An, Lau Wai and Nguyen Trinh Thi each point to the role of media in shaping our imagery of landscapes and consider how the circulation of these images is implicated in cultural representation and identification.
I hope that visitors will appreciate taking a journey through these varied landscapes, exploring these histories and possible futures.
Chia-En Jao’s film, Taxi, reveals the multifaceted relationship to landscape experienced by his taxi drivers, documented through his travels to historically contested sites throughout Taipei. As he journeys from one location to another, Taxi documents how these individual narratives, anecdotes and memories often intersect with these historical sites, emphasising the rapid transportations that have taken place across the cityscape, personally and politically. These scenes are often punctuated by the droning sound of news radio playing in the background, reminding viewers that this process is still ongoing around the world today.
There are many more artists and themes that will be explored in the exhibition when it opens in Shanghai later this month, and I hope that visitors will appreciate taking a journey through these varied landscapes, exploring these histories and possible futures.